ABOUT RUSINGA ISLAND
Rusinga Island lies in the eastern part of Lake Victoria at the mouth of the Winam Gulf and linked to Mbita Point on the mainland by a causeway. It is an Island with an elongated shape approximately 16 km from end to end and 5 km at its widest point. The language spoken in the island is Luo, although the ancestors of the current inhabitants were Suba people. They came in boats several hundred years ago from Uganda as refugees from a dynastic war. The island is also a burial site of Tom Mboya, who before his assassination in 1969 was widely pegged as Jomo Kenyatta’s successor as President of the new nation of Kenya. Rusinga is known for its important fossil beds of extinct Miocene mammals, dated to 18 million years.
Rusinga Island provides an atmosphere of serene tranquility. It is a little known island west of Kenya, which has attractive beaches found on the shores of Lake Victoria. The island can be a very good alternative to the Indian ocean coast and a perfect place to wind up after the completion of a wildlife safari. It is also a place with amazing skies and birds which offers you more of the aquatic culture of Lake Victoria.
ACTIVITIES AT RUSINGA ISLAND
There are different fun activities someone can participate while on Rusinga Island. They are explained below.
Fishing in lake Victoria
Lake Victoria offers the opportunity for hooking one of the world’s largest fresh water fish, the Nile Perch. Full day excursions for “catch and release” of Nile Perch are available. Some of the fish can also be kept for cooking. Guest can also have a chance to see and interact with the local fishermen in their colorful canoes. They also get to visit the fishing villages where the night’s catch is set out to dry in the sun while larger fish are smoked.
Rusinga Cultural Festival
Annually, on the last Thursday and Friday before Christmas, there is the Rusinga Festival that takes place at Rusinga Island. The festival offers two days of music, fashion, film, food, artistry, literature, sports and conversations that take you back in time into the wealth of the Suba Culture. The festival is meant to celebrate the Suba culture whose language and culture have been threatened by the intermarriages between the Luo and the Suba. People from all ethnic and cultural backgrounds converge here to experience the cultural dances, enjoy the traditional cuisines of the Abasuba, engage in traditional sport and lose themselves to traditional music and dance. They can also get a little crazy-dramatic with costumes.
Birding in Rusinga Island
Rusinga Island is a bird paradise with some 369 species of local and migratory birds, many not found anywhere else in Kenya. The small island happens to be a breeding ground for many of the bird species. The main habitats for the birds include open plains, water, farmlands and woodlands. Malachite kingfisher is the most common colorful bird. Also to be seen are hammerkops, plovers, and many others.
This is the best place to wind up your rigorous safari, experiencing the other side of Kenya that is less talked about or advertised. Constant onshore winds cool the lakeward side of the island. This provide clean beaches with ideal swimming and relaxing on well manicured lawns with exotic trees found on the island hotels.
Visiting the local community
The Suba or Luo are friendly community found on the island. They fish along the shores of the lake in their colorful canoes and sailing boats. Guests are welcomed with open arms at their villages where the night’s catch is set out to dry in the sun and larger fish are smoked. The villages can be visited by a short walk or whilst exploring the lake by boat. It is also possible to visit local schools and community projects.
Biking and Hiking
It is possible to explore the island on a mountain bike, watching the locals go about their daily lives. A boat ride can be taken to the nearby Mfangano Island and hiking done up to an ancient rock art site. Guides will give stories about the people who lived there and painted the rock art.
Rusinga Island Paleontology
The island is one of the most magnificent localities in the world for fossils. Rusinga island is well known for its fossil primates particularly the medium-sized ape Ekembo. Another reason is the exquisite preservation that has led to the discovery of thousands of fossil mammals, reptiles, insects, fruits, seeds, and leaves. The two most rewarding prehistoric sites can be accessed while in the island. Rusinga guides are ready to explain the archaeological significance of what these sites contain.
Tom Mboya’s Mausoleum
Coming from Rusinga Island, Tom Mboya was one of the few Luo people to achieve political success in the early days of Kenya independence. He had a huge amount of influence as Jomo Kenyatta’s right-hand man and was widely tipped to become Kenya’s second president before he was assassinated in 1969. His tomb and a small museum dedicated to his life.
Tom Mboya’s mausoleum lies on family land at Kasawanga Village on the north side of the island. The mausoleum (open most days to visitors) contains various mementoes and gifts Tom Mboya received during his life.
Ruma National park tour from Rusinga Island
It is possible to visit Ruma national park from Rusinga Island. The park is beautiful with mosaic landscapes, ranging from riverine woodland and rolling savannah to magnificent escarpments and towering cliffs. It promises unique wildlife and undisturbed peace. It is also Kenya’s last remaining sanctuary for the endangered roan antelope. The park is also the only protected area in Kenya where the globally threatened blue swallow, a scarce intra-African migrant, is regularly seen. The bird, which depend upon moist grassland for both feeding and roosting, arrive in Kenya from their breeding grounds in Southern Tanzania around April and depart again in September.
Guests wishing to visit Ruma leave the island by speedboat at 6.30am. After a 40-minute boat ride on the lake, a safari vehicle picks them on arrival for a 30 minute drive to the park. En route typical, Luo homesteads will be seen.